Words matter. The spluttering over Chuku Umunna’s use of a common phrase shows what happens when we detach language from meaning
It is raining cats and dogs. Fat cats and aggressive dogs; filthy capitalists and canine lackeys on the left. There are dog whistles and righteously offended people who, when Chuka Umunna calls on Jeremy Corbyn to “call off the dogs”, point out that Labour members are not actual dogs. Who knew? On the right, Borisconi spews forth about suicide vests, offending people who have seen the results of suicide bombings in Helmand and Manchester.
The great metaphor war of 2018 reeks of “sound and fury, signifying nothing”. It is terrifying. That language is now so untethered from meaning is a consequence of our crumbling polity. If we cannot agree that “call off the dogs” is a common idiom, then we are falling off a cliff into a void where language becomes inflexible.